The Difference
by Alec Finlay

Alec Finlay is an internationally recognised artist, poet and publisher whose work crosses a range of media and forms, from sculpture and collage, to audio-visual, neon and new technologies. Born in Scotland in 1966, much of Finlay’s work reflects on our interaction with nature and considers how we as a culture, or cultures, relate to landscape.

Artist’s website:

after Kafka

the countries of the world are too great
too clear-cut, too conclusive, to contain
all the counties that we have within us


how beautiful they are, the islands
that we’ve never been to


languages dissolve nations
into song and poem


after Benjamin

nations are all romance
but without the poor
of the world
there’d be no myth


each night, before we go to sleep
the radio turns off our borders
and broadcasts to all the sailors
far, far, out at sea


our laws are imitations


the world knows itself as an arc


a domain we all share: SKY

a utopian language: ALLONEWORD

a utopian technology: ALLONEWORLD

a notion of the self, given extension and exclusion: NATION

the ‘also ran’ of politics : REGION

the countries on the edge of England: BRITAIN

the Aegean, inverted: HEBRIDES

a glimpse of happiness: HY-BRAZIL

a diminishment to the ray of the nation: EMIGRATION

a little more colour: IMMIGRATION


after Sir Thomas Browne

we carry countries within us
that we can only seek without us


where should we go


when we feel the need


to change our clothes

where should we look


to find a change in the light


from day to night

This text is available as a PDF here.